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Research on New Zealanders' environmental actions

20 February 2008 Media Statement

Research on New Zealanders' environmental actions

New research out today reveals New Zealanders have widespread concern for environmental issues and are hungry to learn more about how they can make a difference in their own homes, Environment Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

The Research New Zealand survey was commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment and gives a comprehensive picture of New Zealanders’ actions and attitudes on sustainability. It asked 1000 New Zealanders about the actions they were taking across household areas including shopping, transport, energy, water, waste, and building.

"The Household Sustainability Benchmark Survey shows that 53 per cent of New Zealanders are deeply concerned that we are not doing enough to protect the environment while only six per cent said that looking after the environment was not a high priority," Trevor Mallard said.

"It found most New Zealanders were taking at least some steps to protect the environment. For example 92 per cent were recycling, but many were unaware of what else they could do. Two-thirds (63 per cent) said they would like to know more, and a further 28 per cent said they actively looked for information about what they could do to care for the environment.

"These findings reinforce the need for practical information to help New Zealanders make eco-friendly choices in the home. Providing information to householders is one goal in the Household Sustainability Programme. It's all part of the Labour-led government work to provide a secure future, a sustainable future, a healthy future, a better place to live for all New Zealanders.

"As part of that programme, we have launched the ‘What’s Your Next Step?’ Sustainability Challenge and an interactive website that gives Kiwis practical information and invites them to register their steps for sustainability. To sign up, visit "My Next Step" at," Trevor Mallard said.

"Actions like switching off the lights when leaving a room, walking to work, regular car tune-ups and installing insulation not only help protect the environment, they are also better for our health and can help to save money – two factors which the survey shows can also motivate people to be environmentally friendly."

The survey also showed that educated women, people with children, and people with higher than average household incomes were the most committed to taking sustainable actions, while older men and those on lower incomes took the fewest actions.

It found the most popular actions New Zealanders are taking are in the areas of shopping for eco-friendly goods (66 per cent), steps to reduce energy use such as using eco-bulbs (67 per cent) and steps to reduce waste such as recycling (92 per cent) and composting (54 per cent). The least popular actions were in the areas of transport and water use.
The full research is at

Some key findings of the Household Sustainability Benchmark survey.
• Of the five main areas examined, New Zealanders are doing the most to be sustainable in the area of heating and general energy use and the least in the area of transportation.

• Many respondents reported that they engaged in sustainable action because it is good for the environment (for example, 64 per cent in the case of heating and energy use).

• Savings and health were other factors that also motivated behaviour. For example, 74 per cent of respondents reported that they dealt with heating and energy use in a sustainable manner because it saved them money and 47 per cent reported that they did these things because it was good for their own or their family’s health and well-being.

• The major barriers inhibiting sustainable behaviour tend to relate in general, to the time and inconvenience imposed by engaging in these activities, a lack of knowledge about what more to do and the features/performance of alternative products (in the case of major purchases).

• Just over half (53 per cent) of respondents stated they are ‘deeply concerned that we aren’t all doing enough to protect our environment for future generations’.

• One-third (31 per cent) reported that they ‘plan and take into account the impact of the environment in most things they do’.

• Three-quarters of respondents claimed they personally do ‘a lot’ (9 per cent) or ‘a reasonable amount’ (63 per cent) to look after the environment. This compares with one half (52 per cent) who believed that most New Zealanders were doing ‘a little’ to help with the environment and a further 29 per cent who believed most New Zealanders were doing ‘a reasonable amount’.

• Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) stated that the environment was ‘one of a number of reasons’ for the choices and actions they make. Almost one-quarter (23 per cent) stated that the environment was ‘the most important factor,’ while a small proportion (5 per cent) stated that the environment ‘does not really come into it at all’.

• The majority (70 percent) of respondents reported feeling ‘somewhat informed’ about the things they can do to help care for the environment. An additional quarter (27 per cent) of respondents reported feeling ‘very informed’.

• The majority also wanted more information on what they could do (63 per cent claimed they ‘would like to learn more’) and a further 28 per cent reported ‘actively looking for more information’.


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